Adsorption of Chlorine through the Skin

Bernard Murray bernard at
Fri Apr 1 16:01:28 EST 1994

In article <94091.080739PQQ at>, Dick Pratt <PQQ at> writes:
> Based on the reactivity of chlorine (as hypochlorite ion) with organic
> matter and the mass of dead cells in the skin, I would say no chlorine
> from tap water is absorbed during a shower.  The free chlorine residual
> is probably no more than 1 mg/L.  Chlorine in water is not very stable
> and is affected by temperature and pH (among other things).  Getting
> a "dose" of chlorine is much more likely from drinking water.
> J.R. (Dick) Pratt            pqq at (internet)
> 7 Ferguson Bldg.             FAX: 814/865-3725
> Penn State                   Voice: 814/865-6942
> University Park, PA 16802

Based on the "swimming pool" smell of the tap water around here I am relieved
to hear this.
	Further to this thread, there was an article in a newspaper some time
ago that was trying to link cancer to shower usage.  Their hypothesis was
that the chlorine in the tap water could react with hydrocarbons and generate
carcinogenic derivatives (their favourite example was chloroform!) which
could be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.  Apparently the high temperatures
of the showers were required to generate these derivatives so merely drinking
the water was insufficient.
	Is there any rational basis for the chemistry they put forward?  I
doubt the hydrocarbon concentrations would be high enough to yield much
		Just curious,

Bernard Murray, Ph.D.
bernard at (National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda MD, USA)

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